If you've ever been subjected to a babel of echoing voices during a teleconference, Microsoft Research is working on a solution. As demonstrated (link requires Microsoft Silverlight) at this week's TechFest, MR's audio spatialization project enables a PC with stereo speakers to spatially separate different members of a teleconference. Audio spatialization's been used for years in 3D gaming, but Microsoft Research has added a new twist: to make it work for teleconferencing, it's also added echo cancellation. As researcher Zhengyou Zhang puts it:
Audio spatialization uses speakers to create the illusion that call attendees have different locations spatially. This allows you to use the audio sense you already have, that you normally use in conversation, to isolate who you’re talking to, and to associate a location in space with a particular individual... In a conference where there are multiple voices coming out of multiple speakers, it becomes important to eliminate the echoes that might naturally occur.
Microsoft Research's latest chance to shine is this week's TechFest 2009. Microsoft Research has a long list of innovations, including the Microsoft Surface touch-sensitive interface, the Unwrap Mosaic video editor, the Songsmith music composing utility, Image Composite Editor, and many more. TechFest serves two purposes: it makes sure that everyone at Microsoft can tap into what's being developed at Microsoft Research, and it acts as a sort of high-tech equivalent to an auto show, demonstrating the concepts that might (or might not) make their way into future products from Redmond.
This year's TechFest features projects as varied as combining multiple cell phone videos to create a high-res version; using digitized books on video DVD to create a high-capacity, low-cost library and school resource for developing countries, and ways to create Augmented Reality, which overlays digital data with real-world information, to name just a few.
So, how important are Microsoft Research projects to Microsoft's future? As Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid sees it, the investment Microsoft makes in research is "really about an investment in survival." What do you think is the coolest concept at this year's TechFest? Join us after the jump and tell us about your favorites.